Publications

Microplastics in agricultural soils, wastewater effluents and sewage sludge in Mauritius

Ragoobur, Doorgha; Huerta-Lwanga, Esperanza; Somaroo, Geeta Devi

Summary

The rapid and silent emergence of microplastics (MPs) in the environment has recently become a global problem with more and more studies are showing the harmful effects of MPs on different ecosystems. The aim of this study was to investigate the presence of MPs in agricultural soils, wastewater effluents and sewage sludge in Mauritius. The soil samples were collected randomly from three different agricultural lands which have been used for conventional agriculture for more than 25 years. Wastewater effluents and sewage sludge were collected once, using the grab sampling method, from three main operating wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) across the island and were analysed in triplicate. MPs were extracted using the flotation technique, followed by hydrogen peroxide digestion. The abundance of MPs was found to be 320.0 ± 112.2 and 420.0 ± 244.0 particles.kg-1 in shallow and deep soils, respectively, out of which 42.4% and 95.8% were less than 1 mm in size, respectively. Site 3 had the highest abundance of MPs due to cumulated plastic debris dumped on the field. In addition, the average MPs concentration in sewage sludge and in wastewater effluents were 14,750 ± 8612.9 particles.kg-1 and 276.3 ± 137.3 particles.L-1, respectively, whereby 90% of the MPs were less than 0.5 mm in size. WWTP 1 had the largest share of MPs in both sewage sludge and wastewater effluents. The attenuated total reflection Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy revealed that polypropylene (fibres, fragments, and flakes) was in abundance in agricultural soil samples by 56.26%, while in WWTP polyamide (fibres) was predominant by 88.85%. The findings of this preliminary study confirmed the presence of MPs in Mauritian lands, wastewater effluents and sewage sludge and therefore provide salient data to advocate for subsequent research on MPs.